Monday, May 11, 2009

A Perfect Storm? Will Pakistan Implode?

By Investor's Business Daily
Posted Monday, May 11, 2009

Terrorism: After long demanding that Pakistan get a legitimately elected president, Democrats now threaten to abandon his war efforts. Meanwhile, the Taliban and al-Qaida eye Islamabad's sizable nuclear arsenal.

Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari, widower of the assassinated Benazir Bhutto and leader of her Pakistan People's Party, has come to Washington, but he hardly conquered it.

After meeting with Zardari for 90 minutes, members of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, threatening de-funding, were grumbling he said little about his game plan on defeating the Taliban, whose forces have made inroads into more populated areas.

Rep. Howard Berman, D-Calif., chairman of the House panel, remarked that Zardari "did not present a coherent strategy for the defeat of this insurgency." When confronted with Berman's complaints on NBC's "Meet the Press," the best Zardari had to offer was to say he has "always have been of the view that democracy is the answer to the problem."

He spent much of the interview complaining that his predecessor, Pervez Musharraf, was a dictator and that the United States had supported him.

But as flawed and heavy-handed as Musharraf was, at least while he was in power the Taliban and al-Qaida were not making inroads toward overthrowing Pakistan's government — and gaining possible access to as many as 100 nuclear weapons.

Appearing on "Fox News Sunday," Gen. David Petraeus, chief of the U.S. Central Command, confirmed that "the location of al-Qaida's senior leadership is, indeed, in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas of that very rugged border region of western Pakistan just east of Afghanistan."

And according to U.S. and Pakistani officials, al-Qaida operatives seek "to sow chaos in Pakistan and strengthen the hand of the militant Islamist groups there," the New York Times said Monday.

In a March Washington Post interview, David Kilcullen, top counterinsurgency adviser to Petraeus during the surge in Iraq, described the situation as "reaching the point where within one to six months we could see the collapse of the Pakistani state . . . ."

Kilcullen noted that "the Pakistani military and police and intelligence service don't follow the civilian government; they are essentially a rogue state within a state."

Former Democratic Sen. Sam Nunn, now leading the Nuclear Threat Initiative group, recently pointed out that Pakistan's "generals aren't guarding those weapons. The privates are — the young people are . . . . And that's . . . a big question mark, as the country becomes more subject to revolutionary-type zealots."

Pakistan, the only Islamic nuclear power, now has a president who, while possessing democratic bona fides, seems weak, has questionable control of and respect from his military, and has cultivated a reputation for obfuscation.

Meanwhile, a resurgent Taliban may threaten the Islamabad regime's very existence; al-Qaida, headquartered in Pakistan, sits perched, ready to take advantage; and Democrats in Congress seem eager to pull the financial plug.

Is a perfect storm gathering that will empower al-Qaida or its allies with nuclear weapons?
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